Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | MAY 03, 2013 5:00 AM

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Yes on justice center

You may have seen the headlines or the campaign signs and fliers around campus and Iowa City, telling us to cast our vote either for or against a new jail in Johnson County. As a citizen of Johnson County and a student at the University of Iowa, I decided to become informed about the issue on the ballot on May 7.

Why do we need a new jail, I thought? What I found was a proposal that went much deeper than more jail cells to lock up more students. The jail, which actually makes up only 34 percent of the entire project, really is more accurately described as a justice center. 

It includes four additional courtrooms, enabling more timely and efficient processing of cases. Johnson County currently transports inmates to other counties for incarceration (at a cost of more than $1 million per year) to make up for the lack of space in the current jail.

The arguments in opposition are many in number but lack substantial supporting evidence. Seeing the need for a change in the current facilities, opponents are warping it into a tool to further other agendas. This improvement in the judicial facilities is reasonably planned to satisfy current and future needs of law enforcement in Johnson County. Contrary to the naysayers’ contentions, the proposed justice center fills and will continue to fill a great need for Johnson County. I hope that need is satisfied on the ballot on May 7 — I will vote yes. 

Peter Johnson
Iowa City resident

A justice center bond referendum is on the ballot May 7, and it’s important that the citizens of Johnson County vote yes and support this much-needed building.

The current jail was built to house 46 inmates and expanded throughout the years to house 92 inmates. The average daily jail population in 2012 was 156 inmates. Because of this overcrowding the sheriff must house inmates outside Johnson County and cannot provide needed jail alternatives. This sends millions of our local tax dollars outside of Johnson County and puts a hardship on the families of those inmates housed outside Johnson County.

The Courthouse was built more than 111 years ago.  The lack of courtroom space, proper handicap accessibility, and the safety inadequacies has been a problem for years.  As many residents learn about these conditions and inadequacies, they — like me — find it unacceptable and realize the need for a more efficient justice center.

We have an outstanding opportunity to address and fix both our space-needs issues at the Courthouse and the jail by voting yes for the justice center. As our county population continues to grow, so will our needs for expanded jail alternatives, which a new justice center will provide.  

So let’s not just kick the can down the road on this very important issue. I hope you will join me in voting yes on the Justice Center bond referendum.

Steve Dolezal
Iowa City resident

It has been known for some time that the Iowa City population is growing fast; however, we all may have become complacent as to the generally law-abiding behavior of our community.

In 2007, the residents in a western Iowa City neighborhood were brought up short with a home invasion, burglary and violent sexual abuse. How could this happen in our safe little community?

Shortly thereafter, a group of concerned citizens formed a nonprofit group, Iowa City Area CrimeStoppers. It is a partnership among the community, media, and law enforcement whose mission is to assist in bringing criminals to justice.

Citizens with knowledge of criminal activity may not want to directly provide information because they fear reprisal or are reluctant to get involved. CrimeStoppers provides the opportunity to anonymously report information and receive cash rewards of up to $1,000 if this information culminates in an arrest.

We recognize that there may be socioeconomic and racial disparity in our county, but this is an unfortunate national trend. The proposed justice center will go a long way in reversing this trend by providing behavioral health services for those in need of mental-health or substance-abuse treatment, more space for inmates to meet with family, visitors, and attorneys, as well as a library and adequate medical and recreation facilities.  

Placement of the jail facility adjacent to the Courthouse allows safe transport from jail directly to court, thus more efficient use of deputies’ time as well as privacy for inmates.

We are asking you to vote Yes on May 7 in order to create a justice center that provides a safe and secure facility for all of our citizens — whether they be inmates, police, employees, witnesses, jurors, judges, or attorneys — and provide accessibility to those with disabilities. These are all important considerations in our growing retirement community.

Dotti Maher
Iowa City resident

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